April 14th, 2017

Giving credit: Trump, China, and North Korea

The first sentence of this WaPo article by John Pomfret caught my attention:

Something interesting is happening in China and perhaps President Trump deserves some credit.

If someone writing in the WaPo who isn’t a known conservative gives Trump any sort of credit, I not only assume that Trump might richly deserve the credit but I also assume that the person writing the article has had some sort of difficult internal struggle to get to the point of issuing that credit.

Pomfret continues:

In an editorial in the semi-official Global Times on Wednesday, Pyongyang was put on notice that it must rein in its nuclear ambitions, or else China’s oil shipments to North Korea could be “severely limited.” It is extraordinary for China to make this kind of threat. For more than a decade, as part of its strategy to prop up one of its only allies, China refused to allow the U.N. Security Council to even consider cutting oil shipments to North Korea. Beijing’s calculus was that the maintenance of the North Korean regime took precedence over everything. Now Beijing seems to be reconsidering its position.

Once in office, Trump issued a series of tweets demanding that China do more to rein in North Korea. Trump administration sources have also leaked information vowing to punish a panoply of Chinese companies that have facilitated North Korea’s busting of U.N. sanctions. (The Obama administration only sanctioned one of these firms.) Meanwhile, the U.S. military sped up its plans to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense antimissile system in South Korea, despite China’s intense opposition.

But that wasn’t all. When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to Asia in March he warned that the United States would consider a preemptive strike on the north if its nuclear program continued unabated. “The policy of strategic patience,” Tillerson announced, “has ended.” Finally, the North Korean bomb was front and center at the summit between Trump and China’s president, Xi Jinping, on April 6 and 7 at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. While eating “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake,” with Xi on the evening of April 6, Trump told the Chinese president that he had ordered U.S. forces to fire missiles at a Syrian air base, following the chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians apparently by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

These events, culminating with Trump’s strike on Syria, appear to have concentrated Chinese minds. The strategy of backing North Korea no matter what is bumping up against the risk of an unpredictable man in the White House.

That is exactly and precisely the sort of thing that represented my best-case scenario for a Trump White House. I deeply feared a more loose-cannon and impulsive Trump, way out of his league. But at the same time I hoped for a smart, more effectively intimidating, and also slightly-unpredictable Trump, who could signal that the Obama era of accommodation is over.

At least for now, at least in the case of China’s North Korea policy, this seems to be what’s brewing.

That’s the sort of process Trump meant when he bragged that he could make better deals. Put certain pressures on, apply the law of logical consequences, and let people know you’re not afraid to follow up with action if necessary. It’s way premature to think this will be the way it will go, or the way it will stay. But at the moment, at least the signs point in that direction.

Pomfret goes on:

…[T]he recent pronouncements from Beijing show that Trump’s unpredictability can be an asset in dealing with the Chinese and that his bellicosity can serve a purpose, too.


[NOTE: And here’s a bit about Pomfret’s background; he seems to be an expert on China:

After two years with the AP in New York, in 1988, [Pomfret] was sent to China as a foreign correspondent, thanks to his knowledge of Mandarin and his Asian studies background. There he covered the 1989 student protests in Beijing, after which he was expelled from China because of alleged links with student ringleaders…

He later served as the editor of the Washington Post′s weekend opinion section, Outlook.

During his career, he received several awards, including 2003’s Osborne Elliot Prize for the best coverage of Asia by the Asia Society and 2007’s Shorenstein Prize for coverage of Asia.

The experiences he had when he attended Nanjing University, and his perspective of the Chinese opening, are narrated in his 2006 book Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China.

Just two weeks ago this is what Pomfret was writing about Trump and China:

It’s totally premature to have a summit with China early next month. The Trump administration clearly has no China policy and so meeting with China’s leader, Xi Jinping, at this juncture makes no sense. In fact, it could do more harm than good to America’s relations with China…

Don’t we need to know what our priorities are first? Nothing in the zigzagging of the past few weeks gives any indication that the Trump administration actually has those priorities, much less a strategic framework within which to accomplish its goals.

Maybe Pomfret is having a slight political change, or at least a slight Trump-approval change. He wouldn’t be the only one.]

21 Responses to “Giving credit: Trump, China, and North Korea”

  1. Yancey Ward Says:

    It may simply be the case that the Chinese are suddenly afraid that Kim may actually be crazy enough to start a shooting war in the region.

  2. Artfldgr Says:

    ho hum, you missed the several years running up to this, and now have to catch up… gonna be interesting to see what people say…

    anyway, china is not moving to fight, its moving troops to keep the norks in north korea…

    south korea does not want unification, the people they would have to accept woudl be a huge problem

    china doesnt want it either… for similar reasons

    kim would like it, but only if he gets the tech and the people and the money and all that from the south, which wont happen its too tech advanced.

    so all this is really the big guy, finally being peeved enough to get up and shove the loud mouth little guy down..

    and everyone is getting out of the way just in case the country with the napoleon complex does one of two things (straight from clauswitz “on war”)

    1) they will back down
    2) they wont back down, there will be conflict and north korea becomes a basket state of the surrounding countries who will rehabilitate it (like japan and others in the area post effect)

    thats it. there is nothing else that can happen, and i bet that the chinese get to keep an island out of it for all the hard work.. which mitigates that, which HAS to come at some time, just as you have to get rid of a squatter in your vacation home, or resign yourself that you lost the home and cant have it or get paid for it.

    but, this was brewing for a long long time with all the other moves, and the point was to be with hillary.. they would hit her from all angles..

    funny, but a war and us giving up would allow for the merger that people in the 1980s in government were yelling about was coming!!

    i linked to her several times so someone would get a background from other than tin hat and imagination..

    Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt is an American freelance writer who served as the Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI), U.S. Department of Education, during the first term of U.S. President Ronald Reagan, and staff employee of the U.S. Department of State (South Africa, Belgium, South Korea)

    She is known for writing the book The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America. \

    The book reveals that changes gradually brought into the American public education system work to eliminate the influences of a child’s parents (religion, morals, national patriotism), and mold the child into a member of the proletariat in preparation for a socialist-collectivist world of the future.

    She says that these changes originated from plans formulated primarily by the Andrew Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Education and Rockefeller General Education Board, and details the psychological methods used to implement and effect the changes.

    she met with the george soros of the day..

    In an interview concerning secret societies and the elite agenda she disclosed that in the early 1980s she had a chance to meet with Norman Dodd who had been the chief investigator for the United States House Select Committee to Investigate Tax-Exempt Foundations and Comparable Organizations commonly known as the B. Carroll Reece Committee.

    In the video interview she claims that Dodd discussed a ‘network’ of individuals including Carnegie who planned to bring about world peace by means of rapid changes in society.

    These changes would be brought about by involving the populace in various wars and military conflicts. She further claimed that Dodd had discussions with Rowan Gaither, the president of the Ford Foundation in which he revealed that directives from the President of the United States compelled foundations related to the Ford Foundation to direct their funding into bringing about the merger of the USA with the Soviet Union.

    have a war, snoflakes give up, and voila, a merger.
    you just have to make em stupid, racist, and all the things so they cant funciotn, take away their manufacturing, ability to team up, their inventiveness, remove religion so they are weak, and get them fighting with each other over feminist gender, sexuality, poliics, race, and keep them from reading these things that would wake them up.

    and dont forget to make it about play, fun, entertainment and pleasure.. cause the hard work that is needed to save yourself isnt fun, so you wont do it. you think jefferson and washington laughed alot and had a rousing time?

  3. huxley Says:

    Oooh… The Trump boy, he’s gone neocon on us. Who’d have thought it?

    –Firesign Theater, “Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death”
    @ 41:09

  4. Big Maq Says:

    “That is exactly and precisely the sort of thing that represented my best-case scenario for a Trump White House. I deeply feared a more loose-cannon and impulsive Trump, way out of his league. But at the same time I hoped for a smart, more effectively intimidating, and also slightly-unpredictable Trump, who could signal that the Obama era of accommodation is over.” – Neo

    At this point, I would not yet chalk this up to “best case scenario” status.

    Unclear if this is the brilliant strategy with all the aims you outline, or if it is the decision by a man who saw some “poor beautiful children” on TV who suffered at assad’s hand.

    A lot depends on follow up and strategy.

    trump has a great cabinet, so, maybe they are having a larger influence on this than apparent. Maybe trump is and will continue to listen to them.

    We’ll see.

  5. Mike K Says:

    The labeling of Tillerson as “T-Rex” has been almost as much fun as the DoD Sec saying, “be professional and polite but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.”

    EPA having hysterics is not even this much fun.

  6. neo-neocon Says:

    Big Maq:

    I think it was part strategy and part emotion. The two happened to merge in this case.

    The strategy, by the way, was not “brilliant.” It was more common sense. But it was strategy.

  7. parker Says:

    Unpredictable tactics can be a useful ploy. Trump is canny and unpredictable. His decision to give commanders in the field more freedom to make decisions is a stark contrast from bho. Sending a carrier group to the area, the use of MOAB, and the strike on the Syrian airfield have shook up the world and now everyone is wondering what is next.

    Sooner or later the tensions of the Korean Peninsula will come to a head. But many times in the past the regime has backed down after making threats. The current dear leader does seem to be more cuckoo than his departed grandfather and father. Perhaps as Yancy Ward notes China is nervous over what the Norks might do, perhaps they are anxious of what Trump will do.

  8. Big Maq Says:

    “The strategy, by the way, was not “brilliant.” It was more common sense. But it was strategy.” – Neo

    Overall, trump’s statements on many aspects of foreign affairs during the campaign didn’t make much “common sense”.

    Sure didn’t seem “common sense” that he’s okay with nuclear proliferation, and let nations take care of themselves.

    We’ll see if it was strategic or simply tactical.

    Much depends on what follows on, given trump’s “unpredictability”.

  9. Cornhead Says:

    This is how I think North Korea should be played.

    Supposedly China supplies 90% of NK’s oil. China cuts them off cold. No one else would sell to them. We also have ships in the area. I doubt NK has much storage. Within 3-9 months, what amounts to NK’s economy comes to a standstill.

    China orchestrates a coup. Put in a reliable Communist general who is not nuts and will dismantle the nuke and missle program.

    China does this for us in consideration of us not putting tariffs on the junk China sells to Walmart

    Genius. Or at least better than Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes ever thought up.

  10. Bill Says:

    I for one hope you are right Neo.

    I’m not a Trumpian, but always thought the Obama way just prolonged misery and led to more unrest all under the guise of being a peacemaker.

    I’m not ready to declare this a victory, but I’m certainly hopeful NK can be brought somehow out of the hermit kingdom with nukes and a crazy leader column.

  11. J.J. Says:

    Cornhead. from your keyboard to God’s ears. That would be a sweet outcome.

  12. J.J. Says:

    Cornhead, from your keyboard to God’s ears. That would be a desirable outcome.

  13. Sexton Beetle Says:

    From Cornhead’s keyboard to Xi’s ears might be enough.

  14. parker Says:

    It is a showdown between their unpredictable and our unpredictable. lets hope our unpredictable trumps their unpredictable.

  15. Bill Says:

    One caution – in 2003 when Bush had accomplished far more (completely rolling over Sadam Hussein in just a few weeks, mission accomplished, all that) I was celebrating, naively not knowing that there was a whole lot of Aftermath coming.

    This certainly looks promising in certain ways. Keeping hopes up but powder dry

  16. JK Brown Says:

    “…the risk of an unpredictable man in the White House.”

    I think the issue here is not the “unpredictable man” but rather than they can put good money on Trump’s word to handle the situation if they don’t.

    The Chinese said so explicitly in a recent article in their state newspaper.

  17. JK Brown Says:

    Found it. Roger Simon included this in a longer quote from ‘The People’s Daily’

    If Pyongyang conducts its sixth nuclear test in the near future, the possibility of US military action against it will be higher than ever. Not only Washington brimming with confidence and arrogance following the missile attacks on Syria, but Trump is also willing to be regarded as a man who honors his promises.

  18. Big Maq Says:

    “China does this for us in consideration of us not putting tariffs on the junk China sells to Walmart” – Cornhead

    And Xi will deeply bow to trump and say, “thank you sir, may I have another”.

    There is certainly a new dynamic and calculation on China’s part, which may have them take more aggressive action wrt NK.

    However, very much doubt China would go anywhere near as far as you describe.

    China probably has their own interest in reigning in NK, though there is some bargaining value to having a less “reliable” general in charge of NK.

    The LAST thing they want is to be perceived as doing the bidding of the US.

    About the “junk”.

    Man, that comes across very much like the “lousy insurance plans” the dems justified obamacare on.

    You do realize that a large portion of the swing trump voters in the mid-west probably are very much reliant on the relative value that those goods bring to them?

    It certainly isn’t 5th Ave shoppers that Walmart appeals to.

  19. huxley Says:

    I think it’s way early to judge Trump’s efforts. As a neocon I find myself sympathetic to the Syria strike, the MOAB drop and the tough talk with China and on North Korea.

    However, it’s not quite the “Fix America first” platform Trump ran on. This has Ann Coulter’s knickers in a twist.

    I consider unpredictability a condiment and not the main course. Someone compared Trump to “Scoop” Jackson, a hawkish Democrat. I can see that if I squint hard. But Jackson was fairly predictable guy from a stable background. Not an ex-reality-tv-show celebrity easily sidetracked into trash talk and conspiracy mongering.

    Fingers crossed because Trump is the only president we have now. But this can all go sideways.

    The proof of the pudding is in the eating and, I would say, the digesting.

    We’ll see.

  20. Big Maq Says:

    Is trump’s “unpredictability” based on anything?…

    “Trump will rush from issue to issue, reacting without a plan, and then looking for those who cheer him to provide an ideological framework that fills in the gaps. It means that anything can happen, from single-payer health care to a preemptive strike on North Korea.

    Pragmatism is merely code for “doing whatever I want.” And what Trump wants may not be what his supporters thought they were getting.” – Ben Shapiro

  21. Big Maq Says:

    Interesting question posed…

    Who was trump “negotiating” against with his campaign “positions”?


    Rush Limbaugh was right in his way: What Trump said during the campaign was, in fact, a load of nonsense deployed for the purposes of steamrolling the other side in difficult and delicate negotiations. What Limbaugh and the rest of Trump’s admirers missed is that it wasn’t NATO and the Chi-Coms and Enrique Peña Nieto on the other side of the negotiating table getting hornswoggled.

    It was them.” – Kevin Williamson

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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